AFL BOSSES have praised the "legacy contributions" of former executive Ray Gunston, who passed away on Tuesday morning after suffering a heart attack. He was 64.

AFL commission chairman Richard Goyder and chief executive Gillon McLachlan said the game and industry was in mourning for Gunston, who is survived by wife Mandy, three-time premiership-winning son Jack, daughter Kate and granddaughter Scarlett.

VALE RAY GUNSTON Read the full AFL statement

Gunston had been a sounding board for a multitude of key football people, and had filled many crucial strategic roles at the game’s headquarters.

"Ray was an extremely valued member of the AFL executive in the time he worked at AFL House, with both his ability to lead and complete major projects, and for his strong values and ethical framework in how he conducted himself," McLachlan said.

Ray Gunston chats with former Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson at an AFL function. Picture: AFL Photos

"He was a valuable mentor to a range of leaders across our industry and it was my privilege to both work with him, and to count he and Mandy as friends.

"Ray was regarded incredibly high within the industry; he was wise and tough. His inability to say 'yes' earnt him the nickname within AFL House of 'The Wall'. His work ethic was prodigious and his working day diet famous, surviving on plain Saladas and chewed fingernails.

"Ray was greatly loved across the football landscape and our thoughts are with Mandy, Jack and Kate and their wider family at this tragic time for them."

Ray Gunston with wife Mandy and children Kate and Jack. Picture: AFL Photos

Goyder said Gunston’s work during early 2020 when COVID impacted the game was crucial for its survival.

"We will long remember Ray’s contribution to the AFL and football," Goyder said. "His legacy contributions included the acquisition of Marvel Stadium and raising a credit facility during COVID that helped the industry get through it.

"Ray was also a proud footballing father, attending Jack's matches for Adelaide and Hawthorn and not being able to sit still in his seat, he was often seen pacing around the stadium concourse during those matches."

Gunston had also assisted Essendon to emerge from the fallout of its drugs program, serving as chief executive in 2013.